Not surprisingly, Robert Cartwright ’80 felt a bit of déjà vu watching his son, Ryan, cross the finish line at the America East Conference Championship in Binghamton, NY, last month.
Almost exactly 30 years before – as a freshman economics major at UMBC in 1975 – his team also came from behind to win the Mason Dixon cross country conference championship.
“This is such a coincidence, it’s just unbelievable,” said the elder Cartwright, of Perry Hall, an All Conference performer during his years at UMBC. “It sort of choked everybody up.”
The father-son connection was just the icing on the cake for this year’s men’s team. Picked fifth in the pre-season rankings, they placed five runners in the top 16 to take the Division I conference title. The team later finished 21st overall in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet, with the women’s team placing 22nd.
Runners Izudin Mehmedovic of Columbia and J.J. Wetzel of Crofton earned all-conference accolades for their performances in the America East conference, while head coach Murray Davis and staff were selected as men’s coaching staff of the year for the conference.
“You know it’s really nice to be able to be successful at all levels,” said Davis, who is in his fifth season coaching the team. “So many things have to come together for a season like this.”
UMBC recently honored the 30th anniversary of the 1975 cross country team’s Division II conference title during Homecoming. Like the current men’s team, their predecessors were not favored to win.
“I was just a freshman. We were a young school and we didn’t have such a good record,” said Robert Cartwright. “Then, all of a sudden we started winning meet after meet, and nobody could really believe it.”
Cartwright’s son, Ryan, a senior information systems major, was UMBC’s sixth finisher during the American East conference and third for UMBC at the Mid-Atlantic Regional meet.
The pair started running together after Ryan was injured playing soccer in middle school. The father gave his son tips, and soon encouraged him to join his high school track team.
“I would run with him for about a year and I couldn’t keep up with him,” said Ryan. “Later on, though, I got better. He would say, ‘I was successful (running at UMBC), maybe you would be, too.’”
Over the years, the pair has accumulated numerous running medals and trophies. And though the elder Cartwright no longer competes, he can always look to the father-son awards wall in his basement for inspiration.
“He has a lot more awards than I ever got,” he said. “I’m really proud of him.”
– Jenny O’Grady
Originally published December 2005